Selected by Bility - Studiobility

The design company Studiobility recently launched a new design line, “Selected by Bility”, which gives up-and-coming designers a platform to showcase their talent. The first product line was premiered at the annual design festival, DesignMarch, the self declared most important annual design festival in Iceland and is on display in Aurum’s design store. Mr. Wolf met with one of the designers, Jón Helgi Hólmgeirsson, who told us about his work and how it is to be a designer by day and a musician by night.


What is your background in product design and what projects have you been working on?

I graduated in product design from the Iceland Academy of Arts in spring 2012. Since then I have been working on several projects as a freelancer, both in package and product design. I gained some recognition for my final project, Jónófón - an acoustic gramophone made out of paper – which led to some interesting project offers right after my graduation. 

"The Krafla geothermal area has boiling mud pools and steaming fumaroles some visible but others covered with small dome shelters that where the inspiration for the Krafla light-shade. The names of the different shades stem from actual number of wells that the dome shelters cover.” Co-designer: Þorleifur Gunnar Gíslason Photos: Axel Sigurðarson

Most recently I was a part of designing the first products for Selected by Bility, which is a platform for young designers to work on their ideas, while the company takes care of marketing and sales. That way the designer can focus on his work and not have to worry about the ‘boring’ parts of the industry.

There were three of us working on this first line; Elín Bríta Sigvaldadóttir, Þorleifur Gunnar Gíslason and myself. I designed the copper lightshade Eldleiftur, as well as Krafla, a lightshade made in collaboration with Þorleifur. 

What led to the cooperation with Bility?

Guðrún Lilja, who owns and runs Bility, had been a lecturer for one of the courses I took at the Art Academy, so I already knew her. Then I put up a photo of the very first prototype of Krafla on Facebook, which she saw and contacted me to collaborate on this new product line.

Both of the lampshades seem to have a strong connection to the volcanic landscape of Iceland. Where did the inspiration for the design come from?

As connected as the names may seem, the underlying ideas for them were very different. The lightshade Eldleiftur is inspired by a text written in an Icelandic newspaper in 1968 describing the Katla volcanic eruption. Eldleiftur means a bright flash of light.

“I designed a new accessory line, Hryggur collection, for the jewelry company Hring eftir Hring. It consists of three differently sized neckties and a bracelet, made out of plywood which when put together resemble a spinal cord.” Photo: Björg Vigfúsdóttir

 “When the bright gleam of sunset hit the volcanic ash it lit up in a striking orange color. Afterwards the darkness took over and the ash was lit from within by lightning strikes and glowing sparks that came alive for a second before fading out. A violent roar of blasts and explosions so mighty that the earth trembled followed this endless vision of lightning."

 Krafla is a cauldron-like volcanic feature in the North East of Iceland in the Mývatn region. The Krafla geothermal area has boiling mud pools and steaming fumaroles, some visible but others covered with small dome shelters that where the inspiration for the Krafla lightshade. The names of the different shades stem from actual number of wells that the dome shelters cover. Colors of the shades are inspired from the hues of the geothermal area. 

What materials did you choose to work with and why did you choose them?

The copper used in Eldleiftur fit perfectly because of the fiery glow it emits, almost like a flare from an erupting volcano. Krafla, however, is purely from paper, since we wanted to bring in different colour options, that would contrast the other products, and also because it requires customer assembly, which made the paper ideal for the product.

Can you briefly describe the designing process for you – from an idea to a design?

When I get an idea, whether it is unintentional or for hired work, I begin a research process. I look at other designs and search throughout the internet to see if it has been done before. I often do these kind of searches throughout the process because what is the purpose of designing something if you are not bringing anything new to the table? Anyway, the next step is to frame the methodology to ease the manufacturing process. I do this systematically for each project, based on the objectives of the project. What is okay to do and what is not.

Structuring the work like that helps a lot and shortens the decision-making process. For example, I refrain from using glue in all of my projects and try to keep them as environmentally friendly as possible. If I have built a certain concept around the idea I’m working on, I make a framework around that concept and all decisions need to fit into that frame.

Then … did you say briefly? (laughs) Then it’s time for implementation which often takes a long time. I do tests and prototypes until I reach a solution I am satisfied with. I usually make a lot of paper examples before I start working with the actual materials. Then, when all finally clicks together – aesthetics, form, assembly and usability – you have a prototype that is ready for manufacturing. 

You are also a musician. How does design and music go together?

It actually goes together pretty well. The design work is my day job while the music is more suited for the weekends and evenings. I like to be involved in several things at once, it gives me a chance to take my mind off one project by working on the other. I guess having the freedom to change roles like that is what keeps me going. 

What’s coming up for you?

 In addition to continuing to work on the projects I’m already busy with, I, along with a few other designers, are setting up a multidisciplinary creative studio called Børk (www.bork.is) The graphic designers in this collective premiered their first line on DesignMarch. Then I will be a part of a project on Reykjavík Arts Festival in May which is called Í þínar hendur (In your hands) – an open and interactive arts studio where we will test the possibilities of 3D printing for the design process. 

Apart from that, I’m just going to keep on the same track and continue with my design work.

Jónófón is a flat pack gramophone which the user assembles from scratch, which gives them an understanding of the mechanics at work in the design. It works the same way as a regular gramophone since it has a phonograph cylinder made out of paper which amplifies the sound of the record. The player is mostly made out of paper and plywood.

 

“Jónófón is a flat pack gramophone which the user assembles from scratch, which gives them an understanding of the mechanics at work in the design. It works the same way as a regular gramophone since it has a phonograph cylinder made out of paper which amplifies the sound of the record. The player is mostly made out of paper and plywood.” Photos: Héðinn Eiríksson

Eldleiftur is inspired by a text written in an Icelandic newspaper in 1968 describing the Katla volcanic eruption. Eldleiftur means a bright flash of light.”

Interview and words: Kristján Skúli Skúlason


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